Wars in the SCA are fought on a very competitive basis; there is no script, no set pieces, and no one knows who will emerge the victor until the dust clears and the dead are called off the field. Because of this strong competitive factor, SCA commanders are constantly searching for new techniques, maneuvers and ploys to defeat their enemies. But the best tactics in the world will be of no avail unless the troops in the field are trained and organized enough to carry out the plan.
The importance of battlefield organization cannot be stressed enough; an army of mediocre fighters who know how to fight as a unit will defeat an army of good fighters who don't know how to cooperate. Teamwork wins wars, not individual prowess. All too often in the SCA, units of shiny primadonnas get squashed by shield walls of average, but disiplined warriors.
The organizational tactics I will be describing are based upon those of Duke Sir Trelon of the Kingdom of Atenveldt, a very experienced battle commander. His organizational plans stress flexibility and small unit cooperation. Small units are the building blocks of armies, and if a good chain of command is established, even complex battle manuvers can be carried out rapidly and efficiently.
The battle units recommended are all built up from the basic unit, the team (3 troops). From this building block are constructed the Lance (7), the Company (26), the Battalion (90) and the Regiment (300).
The Team is the basic unit of any formation; it consists of a corporal, and two troops. These three fighters should practice and fight together at every opportunity, and be very familiar with each other's style. A Team should not be split up for any reason. Each team should elect their own corporal, who will be responsible for his team; he should see to their training, equipment and transportation; the corporal should contact his troops the day before a battle or practice and ensure that they make it to the event, and are properly equipped.
The corporal should prefferably be a pole fighter; in most battle formations, the poles will be in the second rank of fighters, behind the shields. This is a good place for a unit commander, for it allows him or her to concentrate on the developing battle, and deploy his unit to best advantage.
All members of a team should be competent in the three basic weapon combinations; hand weapon and shield, slashing pole and thrusting pole, and should have the equipment for each of these styles (ie gauntlets and left arms for pole, shields for weapon and shield). Teams will be armed with different combinations of weapons for different missions: Line, Assault, Strike and Hunter/Flanker.
The Line team is the basic type of team, consisting of two shields and a pole. This is a very flexible unit, good for all types of missions, particularly for forming main battle lines or shield walls.
The assault team consists of three shields, and is best used for quick decisive charges, or for defending against the charges of an enemy. This is a short range unit, and to be effective, it must be in close quarters combat; they are of little use in holding a line against enemy poles, as they will get gunned down eventually. Assault teams should be very aggressive and decisive, and should be able to reform quickly after a charge.
The Strike team consists of three poles, either two 9' spears and a slashing pole, or three 9' spears. This is a devastating unit in mass combat, provided that they don't get rushed by enemy shields. This is a long range unit, and is best brought foreward when you have the initiative in a battle, and kept behind your shields when your opponent is on the offensive.
Hunter/Flanker teams consist of two poles (two slashing poles, or a slashing pole and a 9' spear) and a shield, although greatswords are sometimes subsituted for one of the poles. These teams are designed to be quick moving flanking units whose mission is to make their way to the enemy flank and rear and cause havoc. Their primary mission is to keep as many of the enemy busy chasing them as possible, allowing the rest of the army to enjoy a period of numerical advantage, and to isolate and attack small enemy units. In battles involving archery, two archers can replace the two poles, making a very effective sniper unit.
A Lance is the next unit up from a team, and it consists of two teams and a seargant. The seargant is responsible for looking after his lance, in much the same was as the corporals are in charge of their teams. The seargant will, like the corporal, find it advantageous to be a pole fighter, preferrably with a 9'spear, to which the lance colours should be affixed (a 6 inch by 24 inch pennon is recommended) for easy identification as a rallying point. Lances are often designated by colour, or by number.
A company is the next unit up from the lance, and consists of 26 troops; 3 lances, a command team, a standard bearer and a line seargant. The company is commanded by a leiutenant, who is assisted by a line seargant. The leiutenant is responsible for seeing to his men as the lesser officers are of their units. The line seargant acts as second in command, and is usually in charge of the front line units in combat, while the leiutenant personally commands the reserve force.
The command team consists of the leiutenant, the standard bearer, and two troopers who act as the bodyguard for the leiutenant and the standard; this unit should only be sent into combat at the final decisive moment, or at great need, acting as a last ditch reserve. The banner is the rallying point of the unit, and should be protected at all costs.
The basic formation for drawing up a Company is repeated in the Battalion and the Regimental formations; ie, keeping about 1/3 of your force in reserve. This "triangular" formation is very important; having a good reserve is essential, for it allows you the flexibility to adapt to changing battlefield conditions. The primary role of any reserve unit is to maintain the integrity of the front line, by stopping any enemy penetration. If the commander decides that the front line is secure, the reserve may be used for flanking attacks, or to support another unit . The next installment will deal with the basic field maneuvers that must be mastered for a unit to be effective in battle.